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Gas Well Explosion in China Kills 191 - 2003-12-26

Chinese officials say an accident at a natural gas field in southwest China has killed at least 191 people.

The official Xinhua news agency says hundreds of others were injured by the explosion and release of toxic fumes at the Chuandongbei gas field in Chongqing's Kaixian county.

Authorities have not said what may have caused Tuesday's blast. A gas well burst without warning, releasing a high concentration of natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen at least 30 meters into the air.

Xinhua says technicians hope to bring the blowout under control sometime Friday.

Hospitals in the area are filled with casualties. As many as 30,000 people have been evacuated from within a five-kilometer radius around the site of the disaster.

President Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials urged local authorities to spare no effort to rescue other victims, and stop more of the poisonous gas from leaking. Beijing has sent a team of officials to coordinate rescue and recovery efforts.

The gas field is owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation.

In early reports, Xinhua reported only eight people had been killed. The toll then jumped to 133, and has been revised upward since then.

Industrial accidents are common in China. In an October report, the government said 11,000 people had died at work in the first 10 months of the year.